Summary: Designed as a short, punchy talk to motivate people for mission.
Naomi Reed writes a regular column in ‘The Pulse’ magazine. The article is called, ‘Pray, Give, Go’. We ought to be praying for mission, we ought to be giving to mission, and we ought to be sending workers into the field.
I think Naomi has missed the most common response to mission. She should consider renaming her article, ‘don’t pray, don’t give, don’t go’. It’s a catchier title which will resonate through larger sections of the Christian community.
Don’t pray because you are not committed to prayer. We believe in the power of the human spirit to dig itself out of a hole and construct a brave new humanity. We believe in spiritual evolution—the ability of the human spirit to defeat the demons that lie within us and evolve into autonomous, rational beings fit to rule the world. We are full of optimism because education is the key to progress. We live in hope that one day we will get the politicians that we deserve.
Don’t pray because life is too busy. Don’t pray because the mortgage demands an extraordinarily long and exhausting day. Don’t pray because quietly sitting down and talking to someone is so ‘last century’. Why isn’t God on Facebook? Don’t pray because well, admit it, that’s taking religion a little too seriously. And definitely don’t pray in your retirement years because God might call you away from the pleasures owed to you after a lifetime in the workforce.
Each month Naomi could catalogue the creative reasons why large sections of the church don’t pray for mission. The list would provide hours of regular and stimulating reading.
Then don’t give to mission because that means you’ve been praying. Greed is good because God wants his people to be showered with every material thing this life has to offer. Buy a larger house, go on exotic holidays, have FOXTEL in every room, air-condition the whole house, drive that bigger and faster car. Then come to church and thank the Lord for such wonderful things!
There are many reasons why we shouldn’t give to mission. The economics is easy: if you give money away then its not yours any more. And now’s here’s the real chestnut, don’t go. Who in their right-religious mind would pack their bags and head off to some ill-forgotten, third world country in a remote part of the globe? Naomi could write about the reasons why staying at home is a far more attractive option. We know that God saves who he wants to save, so why does He need me to sell my house and learn a new language when they should be speaking English anyway.
So a monthly article, ‘don’t pray, don’t give, don’t go’, has much going for it. Most of the Western Church has been doing this for years. It’s a tried and tested formula. We don’t even need to go overseas to experience culture shock. Our culture has shocked us into believing that the psychologists, philosophers and scientists are the evangelists of our time. So already I’m out of a job. Why bother with mission.
What do you think?
When we get our heads into the Bible we quickly see that all those expensive vitamin pills have made us more than a little delirious. Even superficial reading of the Bible tells us that God has a heart for the lost—that he wishes no-one to perish but for all people across all nations to come to their senses and repent of their rebellion. God wishes hell upon no-one, he wants all to have life through his Son. Such is God’s passion for the lost that he engages in fierce conversations with his own people and with the population in the wider world.
Jeremiah is known as the ‘weeping prophet’. We see his passion as he pleads with a rebellious and stubborn Israel. ‘My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they do not know how to do good’ (Jer. 4:22). Can you hear God directly engaging the problem? That’s a fierce conversation. Susan Scott has written a book called ‘Fierce Conversations’. ‘When you squeeze an orange, what comes out of it? Orange juice. Why? Because that’s what’s inside it. When we get squeezed—when things aren’t going well for us—what comes out of us? Whatever’s inside us’.
Jeremiah weeps for his people because God is weeping for his people. ‘Oh my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! (Jer. 4:19). Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn and horror grips me’ (Jer. 8:21). In times of crisis what comes out of God is what truly lies within him. Here is a plea that his people should love and obey him. Oh how God longed to hear these words from his people, ‘Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God. Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel’ (Jer. 3:23).